By SHARON TERLEP General Motors Co. on Wednesday said it paid off a $6.7 billion U.S. government loan ahead of schedule in a move the company hopes will help revive an image marred by last year's bailout. "This is the new pace at GM," Mr. Whitacre said to a crowd of cheering factory workers and government leaders at a plant in Kansas City, Kan. "GM's ability to pay back loans is a sign our plan is working, and it is also an important step toward letting our stockholders reduce their interest in the company." The loan is a fraction of the $50 billion GM received from the U.S. government last year. The big payback will come when GM goes public and the U.S. can begin to sell off its 60% stake in the company. But Wednesday's move is a significant step toward shaking the bailout stigma, which GM executives and dealers see as a major hurdle to a recovery in the critical U.S. market. Mr. Whitacre is keenly aware of the negative sentiment surrounding GM because of its troubles, and going all out to change that image. He will appear in television commercials, which begin airing Wednesday, to tout the loan repayment. Later Wednesday, Mr. Whitacre will head to Capitol Hill to announce the payback in person. The move is reminiscent of former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, who won over Americans when he repaid $1 billion in government loan guarantees used to rescue the auto maker in 1980s. Mr. Whitacre footed the bill personally for the charted flight he will take from Kansas City to Washington D.C., looking to avoid the firestorm that engulfed Detroit's auto makers in 2008 when the company CEOs few in private jets to plead for a bailout in Washington D.C. Rival Ford Motor Co. received a big lift from dodging a bailout and bankruptcy. Ford's sales through March are up 38% to GM's 17% increase; the company turned a profit in 2009 while GM continued to rack up losses. "This will raise a lot of eyebrows in a positive sense," said Tammy Darvish, vice president of Dar-cars Automotive Group, based in Silver Spring, Md., which owns a Chevrolet dealership. "I have many customers who have sent us letters that say, 'As long as they have government money, we're not going to support them.' " Mr. Whitacre on Wednesday also announced the company is investing $257 million to build the next generation of Chevrolet Malibu sedans at the Kansas City factory and another plant in Hamtramck, Mich. He said, since exiting bankruptcy, GM has invested $1.5 billion into U.S. and Canadian factories and added 7,500 production jobs. U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, scheduled to meet with Mr. Whitacre later Wednesday, said move is a sign GM is on the right track. After the repayment, the U.S. Treasury's stake in GM stands at $2.1 billion in preferred stock and 60.8% percent of common equity. "We are encouraged that GM has repaid its debt well ahead of schedule and confident that the company is on a strong path to viability," Mr. Geithner said in a statement.